Officer charged in Floyd’s killing asks to push trial to July

A group of people wearing face masks.
Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao is flanked by his attorneys as he arrives at the Hennepin County Courthouse before a motions hearing in Minneapolis on July 21.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A defense attorney for one of the former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s killing is asking the judge in the case to push the trial back until next summer because he says prosecutors have dragged their feet in turning over important evidence.

Attorney Robert Paule, who is representing former officer Tou Thao, said in a filing Friday that prosecutors failed to turn over about 15,000 pages of evidence by the deadline in mid-August. 

Paule said it included a summary of an FBI interview with Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker that Paule alleges prosecutors knew about in early August but didn’t turn over until the end of October.

In that document, FBI agents say Baker described Floyd’s cause of death as a combination of health problems, exertion and restraint before officers put him on the ground. But they also said the medical examiner believed that these conditions, along with drug use and stress from dealing with Minneapolis police, was more than Floyd could “tolerate.” 

Paule argues prosecutors knew the interview was important yet “knowingly withheld” the evidence, which he says shows that police restraint of Floyd on the ground didn’t cause his death. He is arguing that delays in turning over evidence have hurt the ability of the defense to prepare for trial. 

“The defense has been unfairly disadvantaged in its ability to prepare for trial – specifically with regards to its expert witnesses,” Paule wrote in the motion. “This negatively impacts the defense’s right to adequately prepare for trial and thus endangers Mr. Thao’s federal and state constitutional guaranteed rights to a fair trial.”

Floyd died on May 25 after former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for about nine minutes. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s killing. Thao and two other officers at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. 

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied motions to dismiss charges against the four officers in October. 

The trial of all four officers is set for March 8. Paule is asking the judge to delay the trial until July 5 to give defense attorneys time to prepare. He’s also asking that defense attorneys be granted an extension for disclosing the expert witnesses they plan to call at trial and that the state pay any costs associated with delays in turning over evidence.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.